Community honors 20th anniversary of Bosnian genocide
Posted: Sunday, July 12, 2015 3:00 am
Marchers gathered at Circus Square Park on Saturday afternoon to mark 20 years since the Bosnian genocide that claimed 8,372 lives.
Numbering over 700 people, according to event organizers, the marchers left about 4 p.m. and headed for the Warren County Justice Center before returning to the park in a journey that equaled one step for each victim. The sight of the marchers brought onlookers out of shops and other buildings.
Dontray Hampton, a Russellville resident, stood in front of The “Remix” Mr. Dees Barbershop to take in the scene. Hampton said the march had a nice turnout and that, as an African-American, he can relate to the oppression Bosnians have faced.
Onlookers Ryan Dowell and Brian Steiner watched the crowd walk down State Street. Dowell said the number of participants is a positive thing for Bowling Green, and Steiner said the march is especially important for Bowling Green’s Bosnian community.
Senida Husic, who helped organized the event, was forced to flee to Srebrenica, a United Nations-designated safe zone for Bosnian refugees trying to escape Serbian forces. Ultimately, U.N. forces failed to defend Srebrenica. As a result, thousands of men and boys were separated from their families, executed and buried in mass graves dug by earthmoving equipment.
“We’re saying this really never needs to happen again,” Senida said in an earlier interview.
Anger over the genocide still runs hot among some Bosnians. At a ceremony in Srebrenica memorializing the anniversary today, the crowd turned its anger on Serbia’s prime minister, driving him from the event with rocks and bottles, The Associated Press reported.
Husic thanked Bowling Green for allowing the participants to march peacefully, something she wouldn’t be able to do back in Bosnia.
Adisa Omerovic, who also survived violence in Bosnia, translated into English an address to the crowd given by Nermin Peimanovic. Peimanovic was thankful to be able to express himself in his own language, a freedom he would not have in Bosnia. Children in eastern Bosnia, Peimanovic said, are not allowed to be educated in their native language in their schools.
“Those same schools teach them that the people who committed the Srebrenica genocide are national heroes, and all this is still happening in the heart of Europe,” Omerovic translated for Peimanovic.
T-shirts were sold at the event to buy school supplies for children in Bosnia who still face discrimination, Omerovic said. According to organizers, sales totaled about $10,000.
Additionally, 260 backpacks were collected to be donated to the Stuff the Bus campaign, which distributes school supplies to students in need. For Bosnians, the backpacks symbolized the struggle of Bosnian men who carried backpacks filled with family photographs and other precious items during the chaos.
Marcher Muhamed Zimic, 33, of Bowling Green, was thankful for the new life America has helped him create. In 1993, U.S. Air Force food drops helped feed him, he said. The event was a chance to show his gratitude to Bowling Green by giving back.
“Now it’s our turn,” he said.
Leading the procession, a group of men who survived the violence carried a banner that read “Never forget Srebrenica genocide 07.11.1995.”
Among the marchers was Mehmed Alic, who survived the violence for 81 days before making it to safety on day 82.
Kenan Mujkanovic, a 17-year-old senior at South Warren High School, shared Alic’s story Friday night at an educational event in Mass Media Technology Hall’s auditorium at Western Kentucky University.
“Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it,” Mujkanovic said.
The event also included informative videos about Bosnia’s history, a panel of survivors who held up signs with the number of loved ones lost, a documentary and other addresses. Attendees totaled about 70, an organizer said.
In an interview after the event, Alic shared his experience with the help of his son, who translated for him. The chaos Alic experienced made him feel emotionally numb. Above all, Alic said, his experiences have taught him respect, humility and value for human life.